Before coming to El Salvador I knew very little about the country or what to expect. I was preparing myself for an entirely different culture, new customs and values totally separate from Western world- whilst this is certainly true in many places in the country I was also shocked by the unexpectedly strong sense of North American culture.
El Salvador is becoming increasingly lost in over-consumption and a culture of shopping malls and fast food. Everywhere you look, though particularly in San Salvador, there are adverts for Pizza Hut, Burger King, Mister Donut, McDonalds and KFC. Food consumption habits have changed drastically in the last twenty years, a sad change as national foods are starting to disappear and be replaced by cheap, poor quality food of no nutritional value.
This influx of fast food restaurants is reflected in the high levels of obesity and poor nutrition in the inhabitants. People living in rural areas have been particularly affected as they are used to eating local food and beverages and living off their own land. Now people sell their home-grown vegetables and healthy, nutritious chickens and use the money earned to buy fast food which is having a detrimental effect on their health. $49 million are spent a year in the consumption of fast foods, electronic goods, cars and other material possessions. People are aspiring to live a life of materiality that isn’t really theirs; they do not have the resources to support such a disposable lifestyle.
This not only affects people economically, but socially too – it creates a culture in which everything is throwaway and encourages a heavy focus on the individual rather than the sense of community and solidarity that used to prevail. This increased consumption also directly impacts the environment as it causes more trash, which cannot be properly disposed of. It also means that money is being spent on building highways, developing urban areas and more shopping malls, which not only puts enormous pressure on the already strained, natural resources, but is money being spent in entirely the wrong places.
Whilst this is definitely a global issue, it is sad to see a country like El Salvador so rich in own culture and history become homogenised and consumerist.
Progressio ICS volunteer Beccy Hughes blogs on the increasingly consumerist society in El Salvador
Photo from Sodahead.com